Ten police technology trends for 2015

John Rowland looks at the developments in technology that could help shape policing in the year ahead.

Jan 14, 2015
By John Rowland

A mixed bag is forecast for technology and policing in the year ahead. Meeting fresh demand will rub elbows with work in progress. Alongside this, there are several trends emerging, which will be influencers. The predictions list starts with these:

Rate me – the Cabinet Office wants public service users to say “would you recommend it”. Specifically, it is talking about what sort of service users are getting online – which is where it wants 90 per cent of transactions to take place by 2020. In policing, doing anything online – with a few exceptions – is a speck on the horizon.

But it is coming. If forces are going to manage with fewer staff, self-service is the only way forward – think online crime reporting and track my crime online. Performance scores by users are just one of the ideas floated in Efficiency and Reform in the Next Parliament, last month’s Cabinet Office vision statement.

Hands-on ministers – Home Office ministers remain determined to have a say in technology investment by forces. The Government’s Police Innovation Fund for targeted projects will continue. Last year’s flavour of the month was body-worn video (BWV). If there is technology out there that promises quick wins, there is a chance it will get serious backing. Karen Bradley, Minister for Modern Slavery and Organised Crime, pointed to this last month when she launched the new Security Innovation and Demonstration Centre (SIDC) – a Home Office-sponsored incubator for new ideas.

Up in the cloud – an area where the police are lagging. Using remote software as and when required is only just starting to catch on. The latest version of Holmes – the major investigations software – lives in a private cloud. There is a case for other specialised bits of software to join it, where they can be accessed as required. Advocates will point to incidents like the collapse of a £5 million National Crime Agency-led fraud trial where a court heard detectives did not have software needed to grab pictures from CCTV footage.

Smart cities – the potential for police has barely been scratched. Data from road-based sensors, CCTV cameras and health providers can inform predictive analytics and deployments. Vendors have already invested considerably in city centre mobile infrastructure. They will be keen to leverage this.

One scheme to watch is Sunderland City Council’s intelligence hub deal with US ‘big data’ software provider Palantir. With necessary protocols in place, police could tap into a management tool drawing in data from potentially all sources – housing, children’s services, street lighting, road use and traffic.

Biometrics and forensics – laboratory-based forensics is expensive. Technology will be rolled out to provide on-the-spot forensic answers for investigators. The Home Office has already approved devices to detect drug use by drivers using saliva and sweat. The trend will continue with rapid DNA analysis kits. Trials are well underway.

Cybercrime – A slippery one. Crime recording needs to be standardised to tag the different types. When cyber-enabled is sorted from cyber-dependent, demand can be mapped. Work can then start to decide who is best placed to deal with it. The messy layer cake of cyber responsibilities should start to morph into something a bit more streamlined by the end of the year.

Individual force initiatives are likely to be absorbed into regional capabilities. City of London Police tightened its grip on economic crime in 2014, but that stops well short of shouldering the entire cyber burden.

Inspecting and the inspected – Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and the Independent Police Complaints Commission are among the few winners in the latest funding round. The implications of more scrutiny are vast, but technology can help with police and crime commissioner-related matters. BWV or any other mobile recording device can show its mettle here. There is no better way than a recording to settle a “who said what” dispute.

Collaboration –

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